The Road To Blackmoor

She was regal and quite lovely as she sat on the tan blanket, meters away from the Talbot family mausoleum, bathed in the light of the full moon. Her hair was prematurely white, had been since she was twenty eight, and - if one looked close - there were small lines of suffering on the skin close to her green eyes.

Three full moons had passed since the first time her husband changed and although she had come to accept the growls and howling that came from within the structure, the transformation and what it did to her beloved still made the woman heartsick. If only they could find a cure.

She would never forget that first gruesome morning when her husband came home early, bruised and stained but not from his own blood, his clothing torn and his expression - that of a man who had witnessed the horrors of hell.

"She was right." Francis Aberline had gasped as he collapsed into her arms, sobbing like a child, something Mrs. Emma Aberline had never witnessed before from her husband. Their children had not yet awakened, thank God above, and their housekeeper, Mrs. Thornson, would be arriving very shortly.

She took him upstairs where he could wash, change clothes, and sleep. He would not go into work today, Scotland Yard could do without him for awhile. She would send a boy later to tell his superiors he had grown ill, perhaps an on-going problem from the injury he had sustained weeks ago in Blackmoor. This could be the only explanation for not showing after the carnage witnessed by so many the evening before.

Every officer at the station would be vying for the case. Normally the well decorated Inspector Aberline would be the first to be approached … but not lately. There were too many deaths around him - to many cases where life was inexplicibly lost. Many on the force thought Aberline was unstable, his mere presence a bad omen, despite his distinguished service record.

That wolf creature had returned, killed six people during the night, and it would be said - days later - that the authorities were at a loss. They had no idea who or what it was. And, of course, all eyes would fall on Aberline.

Lawrence Talbot had died a month before this. He had been blamed for the deaths in both Blackmoor and London although no one exactly knew why or how a single man could cause such chaos. Inspector Aberline had been so sure Talbot was some kind of psychotic monster … and eventually the very idea that a man had changed into some kind of wolf creature had been dismissed by the newspapers. They called it "mass hysteria".

The killer was a mere madman, like Jack the Ripper before him. The difference was that this fiend was powerful, psychotic and allowed himself to be seen. And now he was dead. The populace had believed it for weeks ….

Yet, here he was again. Obviously Lawrence Talbot was not the predator everyone thought he was, poor man. His name was posthumously cleared by most … at the expense of Aberline's reputation.

Miss Conliffe understood, even if she did not want to believe it, and now the Aberlines truly understood the curse and its effects. She had come to the Aberline household in London just weeks after both Lawrence and his father, John Talbot, had been put to rest. Of course, there was not much of Sir John to bury, the man having burned to death when his estate went up in flames. But Lawrence was forever at rest, interred in the family crypt … along with Ben and their mother …

… where Francis was currently running rampant …

Poor Lawrence, dead from a gunshot wound, a silver bullet to his chest, killed by the woman who loved him. And how Gwen had tried to make Francis Aberline understand that he too was now cursed. She owed it to Lawrence … and Ben … No more should die from this terrible curse. Aberline would become a monster at the next full moon … and only then would he believe her.

He should have believed her at once. After everything he had witnessed he should have believed every word she said.

Yet, Miss Conliffe could not say "I told you so." to this man. She felt responsible for what had happened to him. If she had allowed Aberline to shoot Lawrence when he had the chance he never would have been bitten. It was possibly the most selfish thing Gwen had ever done in her life. It was her fault and she would regret it until the day she died. Almost.

At least she was able to hold Lawrence one last time in her arms ... and hear him speak her name. Was that worth the lives that would be taken by Aberline when he changed? No - of course it wasn't. But at the time she was at peace ... just hearing Lawrence say: "Thank you." and touching her hand was enough to get her through the tragedy. Even now she prayed to God for forgiveness. If she hadn't been so stubborn, so sure she could save Lawrence, no one else might have been hurt or killed.

Mrs Aberline watched as Gwen approached, her heavy dark cloak shielding her from the cool night air. In her hands she held the key that locked the gates within the crypt. They would wait until morning, when he was back to himself, to let the Inspector out. Lawrence had told her of this place, how Sir John had locked himself in, and it was all she could think of to do. Lives saved, hours on a train from London, to lock him in at the first indication of night and a full moon.

Then they would return to London, life would go on, and they would continue to try and find a cure. So far there was no gypsy who could help them. They tried to approach it methodically but any professor or man of science they approached spouted theory but no real cure for the affliction. Some laughed outright at their questions.

Eventually, they hoped someone would help them.

Meanwhile, Gwen sat on the blanket next to Emma Aberline and took a deep breath. The night was brisk but the stench from the mausoleum made the fresh air welcome. Mrs. Aberline brought some apples and, more important, a flask of plum wine to keep out the cold - and to numb their minds against the screams from the cell. She pulled them from her cloth bag and silently offered a portion to her companion.

Gwen took an apple but raised her hand against the spirit, "Thank you, no."

Mrs Aberline shrugged mildly and took a sip. She then gently smiled at the younger woman, "You are kind to do this with us. You don't need to really. I could take care of Francis myself, you know."

"You shouldn't have to. Not in this circumstance. " Gwen replied and looked over to the mausoleum, "Besides, it gives me an excuse to visit."

Of course. Mrs Aberline should have thought of that. Gwen was visiting the final resting place of her beloved, Ben Talbot. And perhaps even Lawrence Talbot. Francis had said the younger Talbot brother and Gwen had grown close. She was still grieving for them both. Perhaps she always would.

Gwen stretched a bit and laid back on her elbows, her cloak falling away. In the bright moonlight she was clearly revealed.

Emma Aberline, the mother of two children*, knew what she was seeing, "Miss Conliffe, are you expecting a child?"

Gwen started and quickly tossed the cloak over the swell of her mid section. She then sat up and sighed, "Yes." She watched as the woman silently counted the months and weeks in her head. She would save her the trouble. "It belongs to Lawrence Talbot." Gwen said and closed her eyes.

One night together.

A beautiful, lovely encounter that she would never forget ... or regret.

xxxxxxx

*Note - The real Inspector Fredrick "Francis" Aberline and his wife, Emma, never had children.

TO BE CONTINUED.